Adventures in Hosting an Open Garden

Are you looking for more excitement in your gardening life? If so, I recommend opening up your garden for a local garden tour. And if you really want to raise the stakes, open up for a local garden society too. 

In January, My Pirate asked me to open our garden again for the Clark County Natural Garden Tour since he’d had so much fun the previous year. He stood out front and greeted the visitors and guided all of the garden questions to me. I agreed and figured that while the garden was clean I should open for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon on the same weekend, and invite all of my master gardener friends, and my former gardening students from the community education program at Clark College. No pressure.

Ornamental Oregano (Origanum 'Kent Beauty') was the surprise hit of the open garden tour.

Just as soon as I decided that it was the spring to focus on editing and pruning the back oasis garden, a forty-foot fir tree limb landed on the garden. Followed by a 20-foot limb on the other side of the garden, a week later. The garden was freshly edited and showed more structure. 

If I had to have a forty-foot branch fall, this is where I would have chose to place it.

Tired of growing veggies in the front hellstrip garden, I opted for wildflowers. And poor germination rates, slugs, and my husband took them out. So, I turned to plan B, which included a wild-eyed shopping trip to Fred Meyers to pick up kale, herbs, and zinnias at the end of June. I chopped the floppy cardoon back to the ground and it sulked, refusing to give off another flush of grey foliage, until after the garden tour.

Two neighbor cats moved into the front pollinator meadow and turned my plants and containers into bedding. They especially loved the grasses.

Oh, Richard! She does make a pretty vignette while smashing my plants.

Then, after a week of editing and pruning the back garden, my neighbor who rarely goes into his yard, hacked my back fence line of trees and shrubs by pulling the branches over the fence and chopping them with a dull set of clippers that didn’t fully cut through the branch. Why didn’t he just ask me to do it? 

My Pirate decided to help in the garden while I was at the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. He mistook the Upright Wild Ginger (Saruma henryi), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Formosa), and Blue Haze New Zealand Burr (Acaena ‘Blue Haze’) as weeds and cleared out those vignettes. I didn’t say a word, I just added more mulch in those areas and thanked him profusely for removing thousands of Purple Leaved Common Dog Violets out of the gravel. My hero. 

And after that thrill ride of a spring and early summer preparing the garden, we had an absolutely wonderful open garden weekend. The weather was perfect, the mimosa party with master gardeners and students was a blast, I met other HPSO members, hosted a dinner with our garden blogger friends, and had a busy Natural Garden tour day answering questions and catching up with garden friends. 

Four hundred and sixty people visited our garden over that weekend. And I’m still feeling amazed and a bit overwhelmed by all of the kindness and compliments. Gardeners are a generous bunch. 

Our garden at the end of the tour. A little gravel knocked about but not a leaf out of place!

Afterwards My Pirate asked me if we could open our garden again next year. I smiled and said, “Only if you answer all of the questions, my love.”  


  1. Four hundred and sixty people, makes my throat hurt just thinking about all those questions! I'm sure everyone left feeling lucky to have been there.


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